From Nepal to Montevideo - the incredible World Cup journey of Jordan

The Asian nation are heavy underdogs heading into their play-off clash with Uruguay but they have shown time and again in qualification that they can upset the odds
By Miles Chambers

In 1930, Uruguay hosted and won the first ever World Cup. Jordan? The nation did not even exist. In 1950, the South American side became champions for the second time, while the Arabic country had only been formed four years earlier.

Fast forward 60 years and the Celeste are still making waves, storming the World Cup to reach the last four in one of the biggest surprises in South Africa. Meanwhile, the hosts in Wednesday's first leg of the intercontinental play-off to reach Brazil were yet to even come close to making the finals.

But qualifying for 2014 has seen the disparate nations' fortunes interlocked. The fact that Jordan have even made it this far is worthy of accolades in itself but not reaching Brazil would be like being shown a mouth-watering buffet and not being allowed to take a bite.


Jordan qualified for the final AFC group stage four matches into the six-game run of fixtures, knocking out China and Singapore but finishing behind Iraq.

The giants of Group B in the fourth round of qualification were both beaten 2-1 in their visits to Jordan, though they still reached the finals.

Iraq finished ahead of Jordan in the previous round, but bottom of the final group stage, while Oman's defeat to Jordan confirmed their exit.

Jordan were underdogs heading into their continental play-off with Uzbekistan and only scraped through on penalties to set up a date with Uruguay.
The run of results which have brought An-Nashama to Wednesday's clash in Amman were not entirely out of the blue but they were unprecedented.

Jordan thrashed Nepal 10-1 over two legs to earn a spot in the third AFC qualifying round; in comparison, they had made it through the first round four years earlier by scraping a victory over the much lower-ranked Kyrgyzstan.

Making it this far was a good start but they subsequently carved their own portion of history as they reached the final round of AFC qualification for the first time - 28 years after their first World Cup finals attempt - by finishing second behind Iraq in their group but ahead of China and Singapore.

Lumped in Group B with Australia and Japan, finishing third to earn a continental play-off spot always looked their most viable option. However, they were 32 minutes away from elimination in their final game before Ahmad Hayel grabbed the goal which kept their unlikely Brazil dream alive.

Two more hurdles lay ahead of them and first up was beating Uzbekistan who, though hardly international powerhouses, had far more experience in the latter stages of major tournament qualification.

Both legs were fought tooth and nail and both finished all square at 1-1, meaning penalties. The shootout went on unusually long, leaving 10th-choice spot-kick-taker Mohammad Al-Dmeiri to put the Uzbeks out of their misery in the most nail-biting fashion.

And now Jordan's final hurdle is Uruguay. A team with attacking talent in abundance and, in Edinson Cavani, a player worth €64 million (£54.1m) - a sum of money to which An-Nashama's entire squad combined will scarcely come close in their entire career earnings.

But the reigning Copa America champions have shown their weaknesses in Conmebol qualification and can consider themselves lucky to have even made it this far - if Brazil had not been hosts, it would be expected that the Selecao would have finished in the top five, knocking Uruguay down to sixth as a result and ruling out their last-chance saloon spot.

Luis Suarez and Co. have actually faced some of the Asian opposition's present-day stars once before in the Under-20s World Cup group stage - the furthest that any Jordan side have ever got in a Fifa competition. A first-half Cavani goal gave Uruguay a 1-0 victory but that experience - albeit fleeting - against top-quality opposition could come in handy for Hossam Hassan's side in November's encounters.

Winning the first leg on home soil is not incomprehensible but a triumph in Montevideo would be jaw-dropping for a nation who have now failed to win over 90 minutes in their last six away World Cup qualifiers. Victory on Wednesday could at least keep that potential shock a possibility for a little bit longer.

Sixty-three years ago, Jordan were a baby of a nation while Uruguay were lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in Brazil. But on Wednesday they face off on a level playing field, with the Arabic nation having every intention of stopping Suarez and Co. repeating the feat next summer.